Shramik Trains witnessed 80 deaths onboard

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on May 30, 2020

As many as 80 deaths have been reported between May 9 and May 27 onboard the Shramik Special trains, the special train ferrying migrant workers home, according to data from the Railway Protection Force reviewed by Hindustan Times.

Around 3,840 trains have been running since May 1 to transport the stranded migrant workers back home.

On Wednesday, nine deaths were reported on the trains. However, rail ministry claimed that most of the deaths were due to the “chronic disease” as many migrants moved to big cities for “medical treatment.” The clarification came when the ministry was questioned after reports of people dying of hunger, heat, and exhaustion on Shranik trains emerged.

This is the first time, though, that details of more deaths are emerging. An RPF official confirmed the numbers and said to HT that an initial list has been compiled, however, a final list will soon be issued after coordinating with the states.

A spokesperson for the ministry of railways, upon being specifically asked about the 80 deaths, said the “chairman railway board had responded to the query in the press conference.”

At a press conference on Friday, railway board chairman VK Yadav said: “Anyone’s death is a big loss... Indian Railways has a control system where the train is immediately stopped if someone is found ill and they are sent to the nearest hospital base to try and save their lives. Many such passengers were attended to and many deliveries also took place.”

He further added: “I can imagine the plight of labourers travelling even in these conditions. In case of deaths, the local zones investigate the reason and without an investigation, there are allegations that they died of hunger when there was no shortage of food. Some deaths occurred and we are compiling the figures... we will issue the figures in a few days.”

Data Analysis

According to the data reviewed by HT, the deaths were recorded from May 9 till May 27 across several zones including the East Central Railway zone, North Eastern Railway zone, Northern Railway Zone, and North Central Railway zone. The ages of the dead ranged from 4 to 85.

There have been 18 deaths in the North Eastern Railway zone, 19 in North Central zone and 13 in East Coast Railway zone. Nearly 80 per cent of total Shramik trains are ply on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The Railway Ministry, in response to reports of the nine deaths, said in a statement on Friday morning: “Indian Railways has been running Shramik special Trains on a daily basis throughout the country to ensure that migrants can travel back to their homes. It has been observed that some people who are availing this service have pre-existing medical conditions which aggravate the risk they face during the Covid-19 pandemic. A few unfortunate cases of deaths related to pre-existing medical conditions while travelling has happened.”

According to a zonal officer quoted in the HT report, heat, exhaustion, and thirst are among the primary issues faced by the passengers on board these trains.

On Friday, railway minister Piyush Goyal released a statement asking people who are suffering from chronic illness and have health issues to not travel by Shramik trains.

“I appeal to people suffering from serious ailments, pregnant women & those above 65 years and below 10 years of age to travel only when necessary in Shramik Trains. Railway Parivaar is committed to ensuring the safety of all passengers,” he said.

On Thursday, the apex court has passed an order to the Railway Ministry to provide boarding workers with food and water.

Published on May 30, 2020

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